Linworth Libraries Unlimited

Fostering Family History Services

A Guide for Librarians, Archivists, and Volunteers

by Rhonda L. Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller


This step-by-step guide provides a blueprint for developing a family history program at your library.

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Cover image for Fostering Family History Services

February 2016

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 269
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Adult Services and Programs/General
  Archives and Records Management/General

Here is everything you need to promote your library as a center for genealogical study by leveraging your collection to help patrons conduct research on ancestors, document family stories, and archive family heirlooms.

Websites, social media, and the Internet have made research on family history accessible. Your library can tap into the popularity of the do-it-yourself genealogy movement by promoting your role as both a preserver of local community history as well as a source for helping your patrons archive what's important to their family. This professional guide will teach you how to integrate family history programming into your educational outreach tools and services to the community.

The book is divided into three sections: the first introduces methods for creating a program to help your clients trace their roots; the second provides library science instruction in reference and planning for local collections; and the third part focuses on the use of specific types of resources in local collections. Additional information features methods for preserving photographs, letters, diaries, documents, memorabilia, and ephemera. The text also includes bibliographies, appendices, checklists, and links to online aids to further assist with valuating and organizing important family mementos.


  • Discusses the reference environment and offers tips for strategic planning for local studies
  • Includes hints of how to assess, organize, discard, or donate family heirlooms
  • Offers suggestions for caring for family history archives, including physical enclosures, digital copies, and the importance of data backups
  • Features templates for partnership agreements with other organizations
Author Info

Rhonda L. Clark, PhD, is associate professor of information and library science at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Her published works include several articles on local collection reference and digitization in Annual Review of Cultural Informatics and Electronic Records and Resource Management Implementation in Diverse Environments. Clark holds a doctorate in Russian history from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in library science from the University of Pittsburgh.

Nicole Wedemeyer Miller, MA, MLS, teaches a course on genealogy and library service at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She also teaches various family history courses and seminars at the Champaign County Historical Archives. Previously, she was a reference librarian in academic and public libraries for more than 12 years. She holds a master's degree in English literature from Northern Illinois University as well as a Master of Library Science from the University of Illinois and has published several articles in genealogy and local history journals.

Table of Contents


  • Preface Introduction: Why Providing Family History Services is a Great Idea
  • Chapter 1: Thinking Outside the Collection Box Chapter 2: Record It: Preserving Family and Community History Chapter 3: Tell It: Oral History for the 21st Century Chapter 4: Sort It: Assessing and Storing Home Sources Chapter 5: Picture It: Gathering, Analyzing and Storing Family Photographs Chapter 6: The Negotiators: Asking and Answering Questions Chapter 7: Maximizing Access to Family History Materials Chapter 8: Mining the Riches Chapter 9: Pooling Our Resources: The Digital Portal
  • Appendix A: Annotated Lists of Family History Titles Appendix B: The Locality Guide Appendix C: Associations Related to Local Studies Appendix D: Forms Index



    "Readers will appreciate the plethora of programming ideas presented throughout the work as well as the tips for creating a guide of other local organizations supporting family history research. . . . Anyone who wishes to develop or expand a family history program will turn to this resource again and again."—Library Journal, Starred Review

    "Offers practical advice, with bibliographical notes, on how to establish a family history service within the framework of existing programming and outreach."—American Libraries

    "When libraries face budget concerns and changes in technology and consumerism, embracing family history offers a significant opportunity. Some hesitate, uncertain of how to help researchers in an unfamiliar field. Fostering Family History Services aims to help these professionals and volunteers. . . . Fostering Family History Services is a welcome addition to a subject that receives little notice in library science education. It shows libraries paying more attention to the value of local history and genealogy collections."—National Genealogical Society Quarterly


    "Fostering Family History Services by Rhonda L Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller is an insightful detailed volume on setting up and providing genealogy and family history services. As a seasoned genealogy librarian, I have been consulted many a time by libraries and genealogical societies on creating and maintaining a family history research collection. This book answers those questions and more.

    In this easy to read volume, you will find helpful text in providing service in a very detailed area of research. It empowers service providers to offer family history reference to individuals who are pursuing a family history research project, even if that provider is not a trained in family history. Each chapter begins with background information on the chapter topic. The chapters conclude ideas for programming on that specific subject, and one of my personal favorites, cited sources.

    Not only does this source cover printed sources, it reaches out to the digital world, allowing for ideas on digitization in the library setting. It offers ideas for preservation of family and community histories, and gathering and storing of photographs. Also found is information on partnerships, cataloging, periodicals, and specific records and resources used by family history researchers.

    It is without reservation that I suggest this book should be on all shelves of service providers that help customers with family history, those that are thinking of or creating a family history collection, and those that have been providing genealogy reference for a long time."—Susan Kaufman, Senior Manager, Houston Public Library, Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX

    "Rhonda Clark and Nicole Wedemeyer Miller have done a superb job with this work. I wish that it had been available when I was starting out; even 15 years ago it would have been very useful. What I liked about it was that it gave great examples of what to do, and references to check on those recommendations, but it also dealt with various subjects in a very true to life and common sense style. From showing how to think outside traditional ways of delivering service, to giving readers examples of various kinds of research, and even including some good ideas for delivering items in a digital manner, this book covers a diverse selection of topics and does it very well. It is very readable and could be used as a manual for training. Highly recommended."—Larry Naukam, Retired Director of Historical Services (Local History, Genealogy, and Digitizing), Rochester NY Public Library; Digital Public Library of America, Community Representative

    In the News

    Media Space Illinois, Name Issues in Genealogy: Problems and Opportunities, 12/21/2015

    Infopeople and Niche Academy, How to Serve Genealogists Now, 9/21/2017

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